Jerry Samuels Dies: One of Pop Music’s Most Unique One-Hit Wonders as ‘Napoleon XIV’

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“Remember when you ran away…”

Jerry Samuels, who as “Napoleon XIV” wrote and recorded one of pop music’s most unusual hit singles, 1966’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!,” died today (March 10, 2023). Samuels, 84, had operated a Philadelphia-based talent agency for the past four decades. News of his passing was shared by his wife, Bobbie Samuels, on her Facebook page. “My friends,” she wrote, “Jerry died early this morning. He was my rock and the greatest love of my life. He taught me to be strong.”

Samuels, born May 3, 1938, was a recording engineer in New York City. He came up with an idea: a song about a poor guy who’s so distraught over his girlfriend leaving him that he’s driven to madness. He took on the name Napoleon XIV, credited his composition to N. Bonaparte and somehow got Warner Bros. Records to agree to release it in July 1966. With only a snare drum and a tambourine as accompaniment, Samuels recites—never sings—his tale of woe.

“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” was, by any measure, one of the most bizarre records to come out in any year. It took off like, well, like crazy, reaching #3 in the U.S. and #4 in the U.K. It’s available digitally here.

This ad for the single appeared in the July 30, 1966 issue of Record World

The single’s B-side was “!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT ot gnimoC er’yehT,” the same recording played backwards.

A few years earlier, Sammy Davis Jr. earned a #1 R&B / #17 pop hit with a Samuels composition, “The Shelter of Your Arms.”

As Napoleon XIV, Samuels was a one-hit wonder, though his 1966 single lived on largely via airplay from novelty record aficionado Dr. Demento, who included it on many compilation albums. There was actually a Napoleon XIV album, which did not chart (it included an answer song, “I’m Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!” by “Josephine XV”), numerous cover versions and, in 1988, a sequel by Samuels, “They’re Coming To Get Me Again, Ha Haaa!”

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9 Comments so far

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  1. Jas
    #1 Jas 11 March, 2023, 00:35

    An absolute classic if you grew up in the 60s and 70s. I loved it then and it still cracks me up.

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  2. rich
    #2 rich 11 March, 2023, 00:50

    he also had one of the biggest dr demento hits of all time, “i like a lot of iowa pot”

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  3. Steve
    #3 Steve 11 March, 2023, 06:15

    It’s not his girlfriend who leaves him – it’s his dog. Listen carefully to the third verse. The picture on the album cover is a clue, too.

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  4. Danoreno
    #4 Danoreno 11 March, 2023, 16:26

    I used to listen to Dr Demento in Colorado Springs on KK FM back in the early seventies. So this is Samuel’s song!

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  5. KEN MAN
    #5 KEN MAN 11 March, 2023, 16:37


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  6. Crazy Bob
    #6 Crazy Bob 11 March, 2023, 22:40

    They’re Coming to Take Me Away is my mantra. It helps me through very difficult times. As John Astin’s character on Night Court says, “Buutt….. I’m feeling MUCH BETTER now”.

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  7. Htos1av
    #7 Htos1av 13 March, 2023, 10:30

    Only heard it on the demento radio show on Sundays-usually a lead-in to National Lampoon stuff…

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  8. Frostozzy
    #8 Frostozzy 18 March, 2023, 21:45

    I loved this song when I was a kid. It drove my parents crazy! I hear it at Halloween time on a local radio station that plays a lot of stuff like Welcome to my Nightmare, Thriller, Purple People Eater, and others during the Halloween season. We also play this song alot for the kids at the school I work at during the season. I hope Mr Samuels kept the rights and residuals

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  9. Larry
    #9 Larry 4 September, 2023, 18:39

    RIP Jerry…there was an interesting cover of the song in 1990 by UK project Bombalurina on its album “Huggin & a Kissin”…it was put together by Andrew Lloyd Webber and consisted of covers of noveltyish 50s & 60s songs, with vocals by UK TV personality Timmy Mallett & his cartoonish sidekick…the project was named after a character in one of Webber’s musicals, “Cats”…the album had 2 UK smash hits, the #1 “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” & “Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Back Seat”…the cover of “TCTTMAHH” is fun & just like the original but with a twist…twice the sidekick in a high pitched English voice would interject “are you alright?? Where are you going?!” Makes it more funny than desperate…

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